[Review] - Game Of Thrones, Season 4 Episode 2, "The Lion And The Rose"

Courtesy of HBO
Last week, to kick off another year of Game of Thrones, I spent most of my reviewing moaning and whining, "ugh, my show's too consistently good. Oooh, it doesn't inspire me to critical analysis." Premium television problems, am I right? Meanwhile, out in the wider world, untold millions have to irk by with only the most basic of cable, or worst yet, struggle on barely network fair, having to subsist on laugh-track riddled sitcoms and prepackaged procedural dramas. The fact is, for only pennies a day, HBO's richer, more filling fair can be enjoyed by everyone, because everyone has the right to enjoy complex, character driven drama, and not grow morbid and obese on fatty reality shows. Which is why I'm making this plea to you today: for all those struggling, getting by on cheap syndicated programming, make a donation to your local cable concern, and let them know that HBO can be a reality for those that don't have anything better to do on a Sunday night. If enough of us come together, we can bring joy to our communities, united in an sated appetite for nudity, violence and a strong narrative. #dragonsforthe99%

Or, I suppose, you could just find it on the internet. I'm sure it's out there. Obviously, I haven't looked, but a friend did, and he said you can find all sorts of stuff on there. Weird stuff. Naughty stuff...

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that enjoy the small pleasures.

The writing on GoT is rarely not good, but when Martin himself takes up the pen for his annual episode, things just seem to be better. Maybe it is his deeper familiarity with the characters, that he's better able to find opportunity to display character quirks (moment of the night for me was Oberyn and Ellaria gawking at the contortionist). Whatever the reason, when Martin writes an episode, everything seems to pop. Episodes are funnier, character moments seem more refined, and events have a tendency to linger. 

One of my few remaining complaints about the series is, because of the sheer number of storylines, that it is a very fragmented show. In a dense episode, some characters barely get six minutes of screen time. When Martin writes an episode, things feel less flighty. Perhaps it is a translation of his preference towards long chapters, but his scenes don't bounce from one character to another. They dig in, and focus on the who and why. It isn't just about exposition with Martin, it's about revealing who the characters really are. 

It's not untrue to say that Joffery was the focus of this episode, reminding us exactly what kind of monster he is. But Joffery isn't a character with a lot of layers. He's just a mean, petty, insolent prick. What we were treated to were a lot of character elaborations. The best bits were the crowd shots at the wedding feast. I'd imagine one of the largest gatherings of primary or secondary characters the show has ever done, and everyone having something to do. The head nods, the scowls, the clear fact that Varys was having as terrible a time as Tyrion. It painted a clear picture as to the attitudes of the various members of court (and a quick and easy cheat sheet on who the audience should be more sympathetic to, if you didn't know already).

So often, the characters are embroiled in some pressing terror, that it is rare that we get to see them as people. I'm sure it was no accident on Martin's part that a great many of these scenes took place over meals. Places where the only option is to sit, and talk (and in Stannis' case, be miserable). Breakfast, lunch and dinner was the theme of this episode, and everybody was being honest with each other. Jamie and Tyrion getting the rare chance to show their sibling bond, followed by a brisk early morning fencing session with Bronn (and Martin has rarely made a wiser choice than pairing Bronn and Jamie. Westeros is about to suffer a critical mass of sarcasm). Ramsey started the day with a brisk morning hunt followed by a close shave, demonstrating his loyalty to his father (who rivals Stannis' for most stoic man in the Seven Kingdoms) and receive the promise of a promotion. Stannis proves himself to be the member of his family with the most compassion over a tough lunch. Bran had a snack. And at dinner, Joffery ate something that didn't agree with him.

I will call attention to the editing of Bran's brief vision as the weir-tree spoke to him. Most of the images in his avalanche of symbolism were culled from previous episodes (including a quick shot of long lost Ned), including the ash covered throne from Dany's season two glimpse of the future. Unique to his vision were the shots of an ominous looking tree, and the shadow of a dragon flying over King's Landing. Portents of a future as promising as Joffery's. But the editing was impressive enough to avoid obviously clip-showiness. Some shots were brief, others held out attention without being overly obvious.

The exact kind of tact that many of the characters themselves lacked. There was a lot to love about the wedding banquet, if only because the twenty minutes devoted to it allowed more and less usual interactions. Cersei and Brienne, for instance. Or Loras and Jamie, or the best of them, Tywin and Oberyn's "read between the lines" off. The episode was a balance of the implicit and the explicit, and kicked off perhaps the most straight forward season plot the series will ever have: who killed the King? Cersei immediately blames Tyrion, but in the interests of the explicit vs the implicit, let me tell you it isn't that straight forward. 
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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